09/28/2012 05:00 EDT | Updated 11/28/2012 05:12 EST

Michael Balagus, Manitoba Premier's Chief Of Staff Gets Six-Figure Severance On His Way Out


WINNIPEG - Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger's former top adviser walked away from his job with a six-figure severance package, documents released Friday show.

Michael Balagus, who was the chief of staff to Selinger and to former premier Gary Doer before that, received a total of $346,869 in the fiscal year that ended in March.

The previous fiscal year, he received $159,782.

The premier's office was unable to provide a detailed breakdown of the extra $187,000, but said it included a standard severance package.

"Mr. Balagus has received his salary, a payout of unused vacation and a severance that's consistent with those of deputy ministers," Nammi Poorooshasb, the NDP's director of cabinet communications, wrote in an email.

Balagus' total income might have been higher, but he left his job in January, three months before the end of the fiscal year.

The severance comes at a time when the government is wrestling with a billion-dollar deficit and asking unionized government workers to accept wage freezes. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the buyout sends the wrong message.

"For a government that has a debt that's rising by $47 a second, they should find a way to put a cap on severance packages in cases where people have been let go, and if they've quit, there's really no need for a severance package," said Colin Craig, the federation's director in Manitoba.

Balagus also helped pilot NDP election campaigns, and was credited with helping revive the party's popularity in 2011 through negative ads aimed at then Progressive Conservative leader Hugh McFadyen.

Balagus first became chief of staff in 2003, and rumours began circulating after the 2011 election — the first for the NDP under Selinger — that he would part ways with the government. After leaving his post, he was retained as a consultant for a short time while a replacement was chosen.

Balagus' replacement, Liam Martin, was selected in September at a starting salary of $132,000. Martin is a longtime NDP activist who more recently worked as a communications director for the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Martin is also the son of NDP member of Parliament Pat Martin.